Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On Blowing Up Hospitals

Six or seven years ago, when I was writing the first draft of what eventually became A GONZO NOIR, I had a good long think about what would constitute the most disgusting act an ostensibly sane and civilized person could execute in order to make a political point. In the end I decided that blowing up a hospital ticked all the boxes – a media-friendly act that would illustrate exactly how depraved my protagonist was.
  The story was written in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. But while the attack on the Twin Towers was an outrageous assault on civilians, and by extension Western civilisation, I picked a hospital for my fictional target in the firm belief that the hospital, secular or not, is a sacred institution, above and beyond that of a church, mosque or synagogue, or even a school.
  How naïve was I? Quoth Monday’s Irish Times:
The first round of Ahemdabad’s bombings took place near busy markets, followed by explosions some 25 minutes later in and around two hospitals where the injured were being rushed.
A doctor, his three-month pregnant wife and another doctor were killed in explosions at two adjoining hospitals within a two-mile radius. “Never before have we seen such ruthless bombings of hospitals. The terrorists’ objective was to strike the defenceless and deepen the fear,” a senior security official said.
  According to the Irish Times, ‘The little-known “Indian Mujahideen” or Islamic warriors group claimed responsibility for the Ahemdabad attack in a lengthy e-mail to television news channels minutes before the first bomb exploded at about 6.30pm on Saturday.’
  In other words, the communiqué was not intended as a warning, as the IRA was wont to do when it planted its bombs, giving the authorities the chance to evacuate the building. The point of the exercise was to demonstrate how little value the perpetrators place on human life and the utter contempt they have for those they consider their enemies, even those non-combatants lying helpless in a hospital.
  I know the argument – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter. But does any political objective justify the deliberate targeting of hospitals?
  I don’t want to diminish their responsibility by suggesting that the men – and rest assured they were men – who planned and executed this attack were insane, or evil. I believe they were sane, logical human beings.
  But civilised?
  ‘Civilisation’ is a remarkably elastic concept. But there’s only so far any elastic can stretch before it snaps.


adrian mckinty said...

Dec, yeah but dont forget that our friends in Dundalk would often give deliberately misleading warnings. And by 'our friends in Dundalk' I dont mean Andrea C. and her charming sisters. Hope that doesnt open a can of worms, thats not my scene.

Cheers mate

John McFetridge said...

The whole world is a can of worms.

We can't even rest assured it's always men:

Here, from today's Toronto Star:

BAGHDAD–Female suicide bombers killed 57 people and left another 280 wounded in three attacks yesterday on Shiite pilgrims marching in Baghdad and in another attack on a Kurdish demonstration in the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

Declan Burke said...

Gents - worms, shworms ... Adrian, our friends from South Armagh generally, although not always, called in warnings, most of which weren't intended to deceive. They came to understand the PR game ... John - the bombers may have been women, but I'd be very surprised indeed to discover that it was women who planned the attacks. Or maybe I'm just a bigot like that. Cheers, Dec

John McFetridge said...

Well, I have to admit, I have no understanding of a culture that doesn't revolve around trying to impress the girls...

Let's just say I always saw Mama Soprano as a very realistic character.

Or maybe we really are headed towards a twisted kind of equality.

But the big question for the people behind these kinds of attacks - as cliche as it is - is what kind of 'freedom' exactly, will you be building from this hospital rubble?